French word of the week: clair

Hello again French learners, it’s time for another new word! This week, our blog takes a look at the adjective clair. Listen to the audio clip below to hear how to pronounce it:

When translating from French to English, it can be difficult to try not to find a word that looks or sounds similar for a direct translation. In this case, you might first be thinking about the name Claire, but also about the word ‘clear’. In this case, you’d be correct on both counts!

As well as being a name, the most common translations of clair are light, clear, or bright.

Because clair is used mainly as an adjective, its spelling changes depending on the gender and quantity of the noun it describes. In French grammar, we call this adjectival agreement.

This means that you may see this word spelled up to four different ways:

  • Clair – masculine singular form
  • Claire – feminine singular form
  • Clairs – masculine plural form
  • Claires – feminine plural form

For more on understanding adjectives, see our Easy Learning French Grammar section on adjectives.

If you’re feeling confident enough on the grammar, let’s move on to look at examples of this word in action:

Je préfère peintre avec les couleurs les plus claires. I prefer to paint with the lightest colours.

Juan a choisi un chapeau rose clair. Juan chose a light-pink hat.

L’eau est si claire qu’on voit les moules. The water is so clear that you can see the mussels.

Nous avons beaucoup aimé l’appart ! Les deux chambres surtout étaient grandes et claires. We really liked the flat! The two bedrooms were especially large and bright.

Pour être clair – je viendrai chez toi le matin, mais je devrai partir à midi. To make it clear – I’ll come to your house in the morning, but I’ll need to leave at midday.

avoir l’esprit clair to be clear-headed / clear-minded

il est clair que… it is clear that…

C’est clair qu’elle me déteste ! She clearly hates me!

en clair in plain language; simply put

In a handful of cases, clair can be used as a noun instead of an adjective:

clair de lune moonlight; a moonbeam (you might recognise this name from the famous Debussy piece)

au clair de lune in the moonlight

le clair-obscur half-light; chiaroscuro (an art technique using light and darkness in painting)

le vert clair; bleu clair; gris clair light green; light blue; light grey (any colour word followed by clair can be a colour noun, but colour adjectives with clair have a hyphen in English)

tirer quelque chose au clair to clarify something; to clear something up

Well done on learning yet another French word on our weekly blog. We hope that we’ve managed to clear up how to use this word correctly!

Written by Holly Tarbet, freelance copywriter and editor.

All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Collins, or its parent company, HarperCollins.

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